House Call: Lung Cancer Pt. 2
BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - Welcome back to UHC’s House Call on WDTV. Sahil Virdi, a pulmonologist, talks about lung cancer screenings.
1). What is the best screening test for lung cancer?
Low-dose computed tomography (LDCT). The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computed tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT).
In this test, you are lying down and moved through a donut-shaped X-ray machine while holding your breath. A low-dose CT scan for lung cancer screening uses no dyes, no injections, and requires nothing to swallow by mouth.
The scan is called “low dose” because radiation exposure is less than with a standard CT scan. The LDCT scan takes several X-ray images of the lungs, and a computer combines the images for interpretation by a radiologist.
2). Dr. Virdi, can a lung cancer screening find cancer early before symptoms start?
Most people with lung cancer do not have symptoms until the cancer is advanced. Common lung cancer symptoms are not always specific. For example, symptoms can include coughing that gets worse or does not go away, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest pain, and weight loss with no known cause. Cancer is easier to treat when it is found early. Lung cancer screening can find lung nodules (sometimes called “spots” on the lung) that may be lung cancer or something else (such as a past infection). More tests are done to find out if a nodule is lung cancer. Here at UHC we do lung cancer screenings daily and soon we will have the ability to do robotic bronchoscopy to biopsy smaller nodules, which are harder to biopsy. This technology can help diagnose cancer at an earlier stage.
3). Is it important to quit smoking even if you get screened for lung cancer every year? Should everyone who has ever smoked a cigarette get screened for lung cancer?
While lung cancer screening can find cancer early, quitting smoking is also important for your health. No matter how long you have used tobacco, quitting can reduce your risk for lung cancer and other chronic diseases.
Many people who use tobacco become addicted to nicotine; a drug found naturally in tobacco. This can make it hard to quit using tobacco. Most people who use tobacco try to quit several times before they succeed. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about proven steps that can help you quit or visit smokefree.gov, call 1-(800)-QUIT-NOW, or text the word QUIT to 47848 from your mobile phone.
Screening tests can lower the risk of dying from lung cancer among people who meet the criteria for lung cancer screening.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends yearly lung cancer screening with LDCT for people who:
- Have a 20 pack-year or more smoking history, and
- Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and
- Are between 50 and 80 years old.
A pack-year is smoking an average of one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. For example, a person could have a 20 pack-year history by smoking one pack a day for 20 years or two packs a day for 10 years.
However, getting screened when you do not need it can result in more tests that are not needed, which have a greater potential for harm than benefit. Talk to your doctor to find out if lung cancer screening is right for you.
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